07/05/2017 07:52 SAST | Updated 07/05/2017 07:52 SAST

Trevor Manuel Says Ethics Code Assumed Politicians Would Not Be Scoundrels

"The code is not nearly as strong as South Africa needs it to be.”

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Manuel said the Constitution required the State to actively protect and promote rights.

When the judiciary found two arms of State had failed to observe their constitutional responsibilities, it was an irretrievable situation that required someone to resign, former finance minister Trevor Manuel said on Saturday.

"This is about the honour and dignity of our Constitution," he said during his keynote address at a Kader Asmal memorial lecture at the University of Cape Town.

Manuel said that Asmal put immense work into the executive ethics code, arguing that what was needed was an emphasis on integrity and a soft touch with few rules.

"He assumed that people sent to office are noble in intent and will sacrifice everything and were not likely to be scoundrels.

"I am afraid on this point, Kader was a soft touch person. The code is not nearly as strong as South Africa needs it to be."

President Jacob Zuma had a misplaced set of values, said Manuel, when he spoke of not being afraid to go to jail, and not of his oath of office and leadership responsibilities.

He said the Constitution required the State to actively protect and promote rights.

"When we understand that, then we understand we cannot rely on the courts for a remedy. It is the State."

People had to ask what they were going to do about the present situation.

"We can't be content to fold our arms or blame the Constitution for human mistakes."

He believed people needed to own the Constitution, as it set objectives for society and was "the only thing that holds us together".

"It is an enormous task and vests with the ANC as the founders of these ideas of the Constitution, the body that has been in government since it was adopted."

He suggested giving a copy of the Constitution to those in power. "We might have to say it is an intelligence report," he said to laughter in the room.

On property rights, he said the country still did not have an expropriation act that passed muster.

Instead, people were making "populist" statements calling for the Constitution to be amended.

"If you amend the Constitution, what are you going to do? What we must prevent is tyranny."

He said there was a tyranny of dispossession under Apartheid, with forced removals under the Group Areas Act.

"We cannot launch tyranny on our people."

Manuel also touched on succession.

He referred to Asmal's reaction when deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa declined his nomination at Polokwane, saying "he has no balls".

Asmal had wanted was best for the movement, not for the individual, he said.

He believed Ramaphosa was a late starter but in the race after recently making some strong comments. -- News24